Indiana College Network Home Institution Model Revised 2007



Note:  Approved by the IHETS Board of Directors in October 2007 and supersedes any former Home Institution Model agreement.


Introduction
Since its inception in 1992, the Indiana Partnership for Statewide Education (IPSE) contributed significantly to the planning and delivery of distance education opportunities throughout Indiana. This success has been due in large part to the considerable strengths among the member institutions. At least as important has been the willingness of the member institutions to work together for the common good of all learners. Faculty, instructional support staff, and academic administrators have expanded their thinking and collaborated with colleagues across the state in program development and delivery at ever-increasing levels of instructional quality. Working especially through the Indiana College Network (ICN), student services professionals have worked tirelessly with the understanding that student support services are vital if distance education students are to have the same high-quality educational experiences and levels of support as our campus-based students. As each institution has expanded its own technology-based services, ICN has thus been able to grow in its role as an interinstitutional information and enrollment services clearinghouse.

Home Institution
A fundamental principle that provides the foundation for the concept of the Indiana College Network is that each distance education student will have a designated home institution. By definition, the home institution is the institution that records enrollment; records course grades and grants credit; provides financial aid services; issues billing and collects (its own) tuition and fees; certifies enrollment; and provides other student services. In short, the home institution is the institution of record for the student. It is the institution at which the student has applied and has been accepted, whether degree or non-degree status.

Originating Institution
The originating institution provides the instructional origination (via technology) and management for a course. The instructor/professor for such a course is responsible for the content and statewide delivery of the course and will deliver the course to all students enrolled through ICN regardless of home institution. This includes assuring that all students have access to library and other academic support required for a particular course as well as assigning grades and notifying home institutions promptly of apparent withdrawals or last dates of attendance. Thus, the originating institution provides the statewide instruction for a given course on behalf of all the ICN participating institutions which elect to enroll students in that course.

Centralized Information and Enrollment Support
The IPSE recognized early the need to develop the capacity to deliver to distance education students those academic and student support services that will be necessary to student success, as noted above. Most of these services will be provided directly by either the home or originating institution; some may be delivered through local learning centers. The centralized services performed by ICN staff, such as providing general information about distance learning and ICN, information regarding the establishment of a home institution, course schedules, etc., are intended to complement the information and services to be delivered directly from the home institutions to assist students with course enrollments. The ICN staff will not act in the role of academic advisors, nor will they provide financial aid services beyond basic, general information. ICN will provide a single point of contact for students who may be making their first contacts with higher education and distance learning. Beyond that, the ICN staff will offer any help students may request that will facilitate course enrollments and that are consistent with member institution policies and procedures. In short, the staff of ICN will be in a position to act on behalf of, but not in place of, any participating member institution in ways agreeable to both.

Beyond the enrollment service functions noted above, ICN staff will provide overview information about higher and distance education, an informational database of courses and programs, voice and email services for response to inquiries from prospective students as well as institutional staff, and an enrollment database. This enrollment database will be maintained for purposes of providing aggregate data on enrollments through ICN and will in no way replace the official student records to be maintained by the respective home institutions.

Discussion

The concept of a home institution offers several distinct advantages for students and institutions/campuses alike but carries challenges as well.

Among the advantages to students to have an identified home institution is that enrollment in courses, credits and grades earned, tuition and fees to be paid, financial aid services provided, academic advising, and all other such academic and student support services will be provided by and handled through one institution. This home institution will be the one with which the student already has an established relationship. This arrangement offers very significant advantages over one that would require students to enroll in multiple institutions and “run the gauntlet” with each in acquiring needed services and transferring credit after the fact. In addition, students benefit from the assurance of applicability derived from the requirement of advance approval by an academic advisor before entering an originating institution’s course. There is little doubt that such service-oriented relationships with students offer a much higher quality of service to them.

Concurrent with these advantages come several challenges. First, this arrangement calls for students to be enrolled in courses at the home institution that are originating from another IPSE member institution. While this means that the home institution does not have to assign an instructor of record or be concerned either with licensing agreements with an originator or with separate consortium agreements for each student for financial aid, it does imply that the home institution will accept “as its own” the course grade and credits reported by the instructor at the originating institution. Over the years we have grown comfortable with accepting appropriate transfer credits from one another. This arrangement calls upon us to take a further step and recognize our respective faculties as worthy of each others’ confidence, capable of serving as adjuncts across institutional boundaries in accordance with established articulation agreements for the benefit of students. Nonetheless, the home institution is always the final arbiter of which and how many courses may be accepted as resident credit through the Home Institution Model and how those courses will apply to a particular student’s program requirements.

Another advantage of this type of relationship is that a home institution will be able to “offer” courses to students with reduced effort by using courses being originated by partner institutions, an opportunity which may even benefit its on-campus students as well. The original Home Institution Model assumed that the majority of the tuition income collected by the home institution would be forwarded to the originating institution to cover instructional costs and fees associated with the technology-based course, but that official enrollments would remain with the home institution for purposes of enrollment change funding for public institutions. It was hoped that, over time, the apparent sacrifice of “enrollment headcounts” by an originating institution for one course could be offset by its role as a home institution in using courses originated by other IPSE institutions.

The original assumptions, however, are no longer tenable as external circumstances have changed. On the one hand, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education requires that originating or teaching institutions report all of their enrollments in the CHE Student Information Systems. The Home Institution Model needs, then, to be brought into alignment with state policy, which affects the balance of cost-recovery between home and originating institutions for inter-institutional enrollments. Moreover, the tuition revenue split that has been in place since ICN’s inception (90% of the home institution’s tuition forwarded to the originating institution, with 10% retained by the home institution) seldom works well for independent institutions or for those public institutions considered by the state to be “stable campuses” in terms of enrollment change funding. For these institutions acting only occasionally as home institutions, 10% of tuition does not suffice to cover immediate administrative costs for a single student, and there is no recourse to state enrollment adjustment funding to compensate. Moreover, 90% of a public institution’s tuition is seldom sufficient to cover an independent institution’s costs of providing the instruction as an originating institution, even or especially if aggregated over large numbers of such enrollments. And a public institution student’s financial aid package may not cover the cost of an independent institution’s full tuition for a needed course.

The services and arrangements outlined in this model will serve as a foundation for annually [biennially?] revisited decisions regarding the specific form that rate reimbursements should take. That agreement with executive sponsorship will be appended to this basic policy agreement as Attachment B, along with the separate ICN Financial Aid Consortium Agreement between Member Institutions (Attachment A). The latter document has been developed and signed by financial aid officers of campuses participating in ICN and specifies agreements with respect to defining enrollment status, awarding of financial aid, monitoring of satisfactory academic process, etc. It will be reviewed every five years or upon changes to the Higher Education Act that would necessitate updates to the agreement, whichever comes first.

Clearly, the Home Institution Model challenges traditional methods for conducting the enterprise of higher education. However, when the needs of students become the primary focus for our partnership efforts, these ideas warrant careful consideration.